Despite a more than passing resemblance to roadkill, tweed is actually (at least in my opinion), one of the most beautiful colder weather fabrics. A wool fabric, woven from relatively short fibres which have not been combed smoothly and are twisted less tightly than worsted wool fabrics, it is a hardy cloth that drapes beautifully.
The raised hairs of tweeds which are prickly and coarse to the touch, are responsible for its remarkable insulating properties. These raised hairs work by keeping a layer of warm heat close to the surface of the fabric that helps to shield the body against cold winds, rains, or frost (does nothing against bullets however).
Originally popularised by distinguished sartorial iconoclasts like The Duke of Windsor and George Bernard Shaw who protested against the oppressive conservatism of Victorian-era England, the tweed jacket was considered the tracksuit of the late 19th Century (I guess because it made the wearer look like a welcome mat).
But like Vietnamese pork rolls not all tweeds are made equal. The most famous and arguably best tweed is Harris Tweed, which is sourced from Harris Island off the western coast of Scotland. On this rock and hard place (or relative paradise if you’re a Scotsman), the fabric is woven by families who have produced the fabric for generations and who continue to fight the wheel of progress by continuing to utilise traditional foot-powered hand looms. It is a stand against 21st century manufacturing that would make William Wallace proud.
However, this war for Scottish heritage hasn’t been without its casualties. Writing over 20 years ago, fashion journalist Bruce Boyer noted: “The populations of the Outer Hebridges is not growing — it is in fact decreasing slightly-and since Harris tweed is a handmade product, there is no appreciable increase in the amount of cloth produced.” In all likelihood, therefore, today the production of Harris Tweed depends on a single Scottish fisherman working away in his backyard shed covered in the rich oils of the Outer Hebridges. This unwillingness to compromise traditional craftsmanship is why I value the Harris Tweed Authority certification mark of authenticity: it is an aegis of aura in an age of mechanical reproduction.
Though normally considered a winter fabric, tweed can also be styled for spring: it’s simply a matter of lightening things up. For example I’ve paired light grey flannel trousers instead of matching tweed or donegal trousers to alleviate some of the jacket’s heaviness. However these trousers run the risk of making the outfit appear ascetic which is why a splash of colour is necessary. Here I’ve gone with a burgundy raw-silk Shantung tie from Paolo Albizatti and the Red Belle Dame pocketsquare from Le Noued Papillon. The latter makes a visual statement by picking up not only on the red tones of the tie but also sneaking in some spring colours with its cornflower blue and orange undertones.
In terms of shoes something with a rustic aesthetic would kick off the look (excuse the pun). Boots are an obvious choice due to their rugged appearance and workwear connotations, whereas plain toe or cap-toe oxfords are arguably too formal. Double monks and loafers should also be rejected for the opposite reason, being far too frivolous for something this utilitarian looking. If boots are not available a pair of oxford or derby brogues will also maintain the visual balance and the agrarian theme.
Despite my affinity for tweed unfortunately it isn’t something that can be worn all year round – warmer weather is just around the corner. However to quote The Vision from Age of Ultron “but a thing isn’t beautiful because it lasts”. Summer isn’t here just quite yet so hell be damned if I give up wearing my tweeds so easily.
I guess I’ve learnt a thing or two from the Scots about being stubborn.
Facial Hair — 5 months 16 days
(Photos by: Tanjim Islam)